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A Canadian company is entering one of the most rarefied and thrilling niches in the car world: the street-legal race car. With a topless, carbon-fibre body and an engine that runs up to 11,000 rpm, the MK5 is the brainchild of Magnum Cars, a Quebec company with deep roots in the motorsports field.

"We wanted to convey the feeling of a formula car in a vehicle that you can actually drive," says Magnum president Bruno St. Jacques. "This is a lightweight supercar."

Although it's not yet clear how many provinces will allow the MK5 to be licensed, Mr. St. Jacques says the car is designed to meet federal regulations governing small-volume manufacturers. (Magnum plans to build just 20 cars per year.)

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Although it has headlights and taillights, the MK5 is tilted sharply toward the race car end of the automotive spectrum, with a wedge-shaped body that helps it generate significant down force and generate as much two Gs of cornering force, according to the company.

Although it looks like a pure race machine, builder Magnum cars says the MK5 will be street legal in at least some Canadian provinces. Magnum Magnum

Luggage space is sufficient for "two helmets and two briefcases." (Since there is no windshield, the helmets will play a more important role than the briefcases.) Developed during three years of racetrack testing, the car is powered by a modified Suzuki Hayabusa motorcycle engine that develops peak power at extremely high rpm. "It's a thrilling power plant," says Mr. St. Jacques. "It's visceral."

Magnum says the MK5 will accelerate to 100 km/h in the "low three second range," and has a top speed of 240 km/h. The MK5 prototype was built at the company's headquarters in Boucherville, Que., on the outskirts of Montreal. Magnum was started by Mr. St. Jacques' father in 1968, and is best known as a maker of formula cars and components. (Formula One legend Gilles Villeneuve raced the company's cars early in his career.) The MK5 will start at $139,000. The company has already received orders, and expects to begin delivering cars in late 2014.

Luggage space in the Magnum MK5 is limited to "two helmets and two briefcases." Magnum Magnum  

Magnum MK5 Specifications

Engine: Modified 4-cylinder Suzuki Hayabusa, 250 hp, 11,000 rpm redline Powertrain configuration: Rear mid-mounted engine, rear wheel drive, six-speed sequential transmission with reverse

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Bodywork: Carbon-fiber composite with removable front and rear sections.

Fuel tank capacity: 35 litres

Length: 3,914 mm (154.1 in)

Width: 1,884 mm (74.2 in)

Height: 1,069 mm (42.1 in)

Dry Weight: 545 kg (1,200 lbs)

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Suspension: Pushrod activated with double unequal length a-arms, inboard shock shock absorbers, adjustable anti-roll bar

Tires: Ultra-high performance, road-legal, 225/40R18 front & 265/35R18 rear

Wheels: 18" ultra-light alloy

Brakes: Ventilated discs with CNC-machined aluminum hubs, four-piston calipers, radial mount

Features: Cockpit adjustable brake bias, adjustable sliding pedal box, quick release steering wheel, six-point racing harnesses

Bodywork is removable for easy maintenance (and crash repair.) Magnum Magnum

For more from Peter Cheney, go to facebook.com/cheneydrive (No login required!)

Twitter: @cheneydrive

E-mail: pcheney@globeandmail.com

Globe and Mail Road Rush archive: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-drive/car-life/cheney/

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